Apr 28 2013

Writing Straight With Crooked Lines

CV4316I love America’s national parks! They truly are one of our country’s “best ideas.” This weekend I had the chance to visit one that I had not been to before, Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It is located between Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, and has only been a national park for thirteen years. It has the reputation of being a wonderful autumn location for photographers but I found early spring to also be a great time to visit.

CV4352The word “cuyahoga” means “crooked river.” A river that bears this name does, indeed, run through the park and lives up to its name. This unique name got me thinking about a sermon John Claypool preached many years ago about the biblical character, Jacob. Claypool makes the point that despite Jacob’s devious ways God still used him to further His plans for Israel. The primary point I remember from reading this sermon was Claypool’s insistence that God can “write straight with crooked lines.”

CV4228I believe that this is an important point and that any number of biblical characters could be pointed to as examples–Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, etc. Certainly a lot of non-biblical examples could also be cited. It’s just true; God has this amazing way of using imperfect people to accomplish His will for the world. I find that incredibly comforting because I am quite imperfect myself. I often wonder how God can use someone like me, someone with more faults than I could begin to count. At the same time, I know He does use me and that is both humbling and exciting.  It is also indicative of just how awesome God is.

None of us are perfect; we all make mistakes. Bad decisions or sinful actions can lead to apparent disaster. But the Bible declares, “We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) I’ve seen this happen in my own life and join John Claypool in assuring you that God can, indeed, write straight with crooked lines. Your life may seem to you as crooked as the Cuyahoga River in Ohio but God has the ability to bless and use you nonetheless. This seems to be His speciality and I, for one, am thankful it is.


(I took the three pictures shown here this weekend at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.)

Apr 17 2013

Keeping Things in Perspective

BB0096“You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3

Bonita and I are spending a few days in Henderson, Kentucky. In a few weeks this will become our new home. We’re both here making preparations for our new jobs. I was asked to teach a Bible study on the parables while I was here and as I was doing some research on Jesus’ story about the Good Samaritan I came across an interesting passage in a book by John Claypool. Claypool offers some important insights I’d like to share with you.

MR 269First, he notes that in the biblical perspective there are only two orders of reality–the uncreated, which has life in itself, and the created, which derives its life from the other. God is the only example of uncreated reality; everything else falls under the second category. Claypool makes this point so as to stress that ultimately God alone is to be worshipped.  He writes: “Everything that derives its life from Another is to be nurtured; only the Lord God is to be worshipped and recognized as Absolute.”  He goes on to say, “If you and I can get the distinction between the two realities clear in our minds and learn to relate appropriately to each of them, this would be ‘the secret of eternal life,’ and the key to fulfilling the destiny that was intended for us.”

Claypool cautions us about making an idol of any created thing.  He says, “Whenever we take something that isn’t God and relate to it in a worshipful stance; that is, expect from it everything that we humans need, such behavior leads to profound disillusionment.” “Mark it down,” he says, “that just as you can never get milk from a statue or wine from a stone, you can’t get your ultimate fulfillment from anything say your divine Source. Whatever on the created side of the line is elevated to a place of worship…is going to leave one profoundly unfulfilled. It doesn’t have in it that for which our hearts ultimately hunger. We were made to live worshipfully toward the uncreated alone.”

UP near Twin Lakes 481I share Claypool’s thoughts with you because I think it is important that we keep things in perspective. All of us are guilty at times of worshipping other people or things–even Creation–rather than the Creator. This is wrong. All the good things we have in life are gifts from God. As Claypool points out, they are to be nurtured but not worshipped.

People like me who dearly love nature are sometimes accused of worshipping the Creation instead of the Creator. I know that one can certainly do this but in my experience my love for nature or Creation only leads me to love God more and increases my desire to worship Him. I fully realize that nature cannot bring me ultimate fulfillment but it certainly does direct my thoughts and passions to the One who can. I hope you can say the same.


(I took the top image at Big Bend National Park, the middle image at Mt. Rainier National Park, and the bottom image in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)